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Volunteers install Panther Valley playground

For the first time in about a decade, Panther Valley Elementary School has a playground.

With funds garnered through a grant and local donations, a $47,000 playground has been erected by volunteers to the rear of the school.

Although various phases of the project began last Monday, the physical construction happened Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Dozens of teachers, parents and employees of businesses worked together to get the job done in time for this year’s school opening on Aug. 27.

A playground had at one time existed on the site where the new one was built. The original one was constructed in 1992.

Robert Palazzo, elementary principal, said it had to be disassembled about 10 years ago after an insurance carrier deemed it to be unsafe.

Three people who helped construct the new playground helped to build the original playground in 1992. They are Gail Christopher-Lazar, a teacher in the elementary school; Bertha Schreffler, a grandmother of children attending the school, and Mickey Tatusko, a Nesquehoning resident.

Tatusko said the original playground “was a lot smaller, about one-third the size of this.”

Schreffler credits Palazzo with coming up with the idea to construct the new play area.

“I am a grandmother who runs the book fair at the Elementary School,” she said. “I ran the book fair for over 10 years.”

She said Palazzo mentioned the playground idea to her last October and “10 months later, we have the playground.”

The impetus for the playground project occurred with the awarding of a $15,000 from the national nonprofit group KaBoom. The stipulation for the grant was that the playground had to be completed in a specified period of time. Schreffler said the deadline was easily met.

Students collected loose change, with the winning class awarded a pizza party. This fundraising effort netted another $15,000.

Ametek, which sponsors a literacy program in the school, contributed $10,000 for one of the playground pieces.

Also contributing was Symmetry Construction of Nesquehoning.

Employees of Ametek and Symmetry Construction helped build the new playground.

Schreffler said the construction phase of the project began last week by volunteers who determined where holes had to be dug.

The holes were dug on Wednesday.

On Friday, the volunteers began putting the equipment together.

The most physical work happened on Saturday and Sunday, with about 30 volunteers helping on Saturday and about 20 on Sunday.

Elementary personnel who pitched in on Saturday were Stef Polina, Alice Andrews, Tori Koer­bler, Amber Forster, Danielle Bales, Mary Ann Krajnak and Carrie Selinko.

On Sunday, elementary school employees who helped were Bales, Forster, Andrews, Krajnak, Amanda Kusko, Johnna West and Scott Weiss.

Palazzo, who was on the site on both days, said the dedication of the playground is set for 5 p.m. on Aug. 23.

He also said the playground will be available for use by children in the community on weekdays from 3-5 p.m.

Volunteers work to construct new playground to the rear of the Panther Valley Elementary School.
A mountain of mulch is moved during the construction of a new playground at the Panther Valley Elementary School. Working, from left, Scott Weiss, Michael Honchiko, Marcus D’Ancona and Mary Ann Krajnak. Scan this photo with the Prindeo app to see more photos. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS